Deer don’t move on dreary days

All deer season opening days are unique in different ways.

All deer season opening days are unique in different ways.

But, once again this season, I have to admit that all closing days seem the same: sad, gloomy, grey, cold, snowy, ice-foggy and hoar- frosty, with not a deer to be seen, except for fewer road kills than usual.

All of the too few days I got out this season were like that, and the deer just don’t move, unless moved.

As I headed west on the last day, I realized that, for the first time since my first deer seasons back in the early ‘70s, I had not yet seen a deer on the hoof in November.

So, the objective of this slo- to no-motion last day was to find and photograph a live deer.

Hunters who know the area well were assuring me there were lots of deer, maybe not so many in the usual places and, yes, they did not move on ugly days.

I staked out and sat on many of the best places I know and saw nothing.

I didn’t even bother with, my best spot to sit, because tracks in the fresh snow disclosed that a cougar and one of her young were hunting the bedding and feeding area and the trail from one to the other.

For lunch I parked on a hump between two draws on a prime road through aspen sand hills. Nothing moved, except rigs of young road hunters cruising by.

To find the deer, make them move, and get them, you have to get back in their hills, swamps and aspens; nowadays, apparently, that is hunting only for old folks.

Vivian Pharis, titular queen of the Alberta Wilderness Association, with other survivors of the University of Calgary Light Infantry, got back in there on the two nice days that started the season, and took three white tails among them, including one ten-point buck.

Vivian says that since the government is even giving away two “supplemental” tags with each whitetail tag in an effort to lower the whitetail population, she has started to campaign against the short, sharp, cold and miserable month of November general rifle season, and get back to the good old days when the season out there opened six weeks earlier, about Sept. 20.

“I used to love hunting in October, she says, walking through, leaves rather than snow, and not bundled to the gills.”

Yes, I remember those civilized days and the superb flavour of young, fat mule deer bucks taken in September and October.

On the way home, I detoured to an area where deer come up out of the Clearwater River jungles to feed on fields of second-growth alfalfa.

Right where they should be, a small herd of mule deer does and fawns fed almost in a farmyard, and a lone doe was a bedded sentinel on a power line. So, not skunked, I harvested her picture.

Ahhh …. geezers! An anonymous octogenarian with whom I have had the pleasure of hunting many times, went out one morning this season decidedly not “bundled to the gills.”

He was in his jammies, in fact, when he noticed, out the window, a cow moose browsing one of his hillsides.

So he jumped into his boots, took a rifle, slipped out, and shot considerable prime meat for what is looking like a long, hard winter.

Then, as usual with moose, the fun ended and the hard labour started.

Pajama Man vows this was his tenth and last moose.

Many reader reports — from hunters, ranchers and farmers — have come to me from the Prairie Wildlife Management Units (100 Series), where there were four Wednesday to Saturday big game seasons in November.

In all my sporting travels, this is the only place where I have been flagged down on the road by landowners and begged to come to their place and do some meat — not trophy — hunting, and shoot some deer, especially does.

There is always an aura of getting her done out there, but, that said, this appears to have been one of their best Novembers ever in terms of total deer harvested and large numbers of trophy bucks taken of both species.

Two ranchers report more than four dozen deer taken on their places, including four mule bucks that will score 180 Boone & Crockett points, or better, and more than half a dozen white tails better than 160.

This was the worst season ever for the quality of “hero” shots: pictures sent me of dead deer and live humans. All the usual mistakes were there: blood, lolling tongues, cluttered backgrounds.

But this year, most shots were ruined simply because the flash did not fire and there is thus no detail in deer, antlers and human faces. Digital cameras have many flash modes: learn to use them!

An example of cluttered background and no flash is a picture being widely circulated in cyberspace of a buck taken near Frontier, Sask., that may beat the current B&C world record typical whitetail, also taken in Saskatchewan, in 1993, by Milo Hanson.

Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at